LONDON — In a quiet, heartfelt speech Sunday night, before a small audience at a charity he founded, Britain's Prince Harry said he and his wife, Meghan, were "taking a leap of faith" in stepping away from their duties as senior royals, but added, "There really was no other option."
But he said that was not possible — and acknowledged that his decision was made with “great sadness.”
Harry did not say exactly why the couple decided to step back from royal duties and split their time between Canada and Britain.
But he gave a hint, saying that they hope that in the future they will be able to live “a more peaceful life.”
He also called the news media “a powerful force” that needs to be countered.
Harry made the remarks during a short speech to supporters of Sentebale, a charity that he — along with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in southern Africa — created in 2006 to honor his late mother, Princess Diana, and to support those affected by HIV and AIDS.
The speech, given at a private event, was posted by Harry and Meghan’s SussexRoyal Instagram account.
The prince told the audience members that he imagined that they had heard about the couple over the past few weeks.
He began, “So, I want you to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share — not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry, the same person that many of you have watched grow up over the last 35 years — but with a clearer perspective.”
He added, “The U.K. is my home and a place that I love. That will never change.”
He thanked his friends for welcoming Meghan “with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness that I had hoped for all my life.”
He said his wife “upholds the same values as I do.”
Harry said, “Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful and we were here to serve. For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.
“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always got it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”
He added that “we’re not walking away.”
“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations, but without public funding,” he said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.”
Last week, Queen Elizabeth II announced that she and her royal family were “entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life” and that she had agreed to a “period of transition” during which her grandson and his wife would split their time between Canada and Britain.
Meghan, 38, a former actress who was raised in Los Angeles, did not attend the speech Sunday. She is in the Vancouver area with the couple’s 8-month-old son, Archie.
On Saturday, the palace said the couple will no longer be known as “royal highnesses,” forgoing use of their top titles.
Harry and Meghan also signaled that they will seek to repay millions of dollars spent on renovating their mansion and will no longer take public money for performing royal duties.
“I’ve accepted this, knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am,” Harry said Sunday night. “But I hope that helps you understand what it had come to, that I would step my family back from all I have ever known, to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life.”
Speaking of Princess Diana’s death in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997, Harry said, “When I lost my mum 23 years ago, you took me under your wing. You’ve looked out for me for so long, but the media is a powerful force, and my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful because this is so much bigger than just us.”
The prince pledged to continue to support “the causes, charities and military communities that are so important to me.”
He closed by saying, “We are taking a leap of faith. Thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step.”